Photo: It is freaking cold in Massachusetts and it snowed 2ish inches here this morning!  I love how nobody thought it would be a good idea to treat the roads until AFTER I dropped the boys off at school (I fishtailed twice! Thank God we made it safely!). In Maryland, we believe in SALT AND SAND.

 

I have read 55 poems since the 1st of the year.

I have understood 3.

I am…. not ok with that… but I’m working on it.

And by “working on it”, I mean, I’ve got 45 more poems to go and I’m going to try to read them.

Trying to read more poetry and find an appreciation for it is one of the challenges I’ve decided to take on in 2015. Not a traditional resolution, as there is nothing measurable to work toward, but a challenge and a habit to take on.

It all started a few days before the New Year. I was in the car listening to an episode of OnPoint, which was discussing the readability and accessibility of the poetry of ee cummings. A scholar of his work had just written a biography about him, and they spent a delightful hour reading his poetry, discussing his life and views, and conversing with callers about favorite poems. The poems I heard where wonderful. I thought to myself, why hadn’t I heard of this man? Why had I never experienced these poems?

Truth be told, I never found a real love for poetry. I’ve met a few poems that I really like. I’ve heard poems that have moved me to various emotions. I know of poets and can make reference to a few famous works but… My experience with poetry has been purely academic. Poetry was assigned to read or memorize (I can recite, by heart, the first few stanzas of The Raven, which I had to memorize in full in 7th grade), but I always came away from such assignments with a dissatisfied feeling. And so, long from high school and any poetry units in literature class, poetry is not a piece of my life. Some of my favorite people in the world have a poem that they can recite from memory, a story behind their love for it, a copy of it in their wallet/purse/office. Poetry is beautiful, it’s a celebration of language and thought. I aspire to be a writer, for goodness sake! Surely I can find some love for poetry. Even if I never become a real writer, I’m at least an educated woman… I should be better at this!

So I had some post-Christmas cash and I bought myself the kindle version of 100 Selected Poems. I’ve wondered more than a few times what the hell I was thinking.

Perfectionist that I am, I am actually enjoying the experience of utter failure right now. Why should I be able to simple pick up a new medium and understand it instantly? That’s a ridiculous expectation. I’m enjoying reading through these poems, which have odd grammatical conventions and other ticks, then scrunching up my face and thinking, “whaaaat?”  Clearly I should have chosen a different artist for my first steps into this new world. But how was I to know that? Lesson learned.

My hope is to finish reading the other poems and decide that I’m still interested enough to seek out another artist and their work. And not just familiar folk–my first inclination would be to go to familiar voices like Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, or even Alice Walker– but all sorts of different writers and thinkers out there. In the meantime, I’ve been knitting and listening to an audio version of Crime and Punishment, which is entertaining and challenging for different reasons. It is actually warming to welcome literature into my life again after a year of not reading!

I was thinking about another set of challenges to take on for the year as I took out my three loaves of brioche from the oven this morning. I think it’s time to learn a few more recipes. I think I’m going to go for croissants this year, homemade pasta (I tried it last year, but failed), and maybe get serious about having one meatless night a week.  That meatless thing, I think, will be the hardest part. I’m excited about the challenge of it.

I baked 3 brioche this morning. The smell of fresh baked bread never gets old. NEVER.

The smell of fresh baked bread never gets old. NEVER.

 

The other challenge that I put off last year and am taking up this year?  Look what I did yesterday when everyone else was freezing:

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My first quilt design, ya’ll! I gave myself the first two Quilter’s Academy books for my birthday a few months back and I FINALLY get to use them! Now, the Quilter’s Academy books are for skill building with machine piecing and quilting, but I plan on hand quilting. So I’m combining the scaffolding and skill-building of Quilter’s Academy with the more specific hand-quilting techniques of Jinny Beyer’s Quilting by Hand, which is a beautiful book that is a little too advanced for me pattern-wise.

These are the fabrics I plan to use:

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Pretty, yes? When I’m done with this post, I’m going to press them and cut them! (I think. Gotta look at the instructions). I love knitting very much and I got a bunch of knitting books over Christmas, but my first love in crafting has always been with a needle and thread. I think that the skills I learned in embroidery are going to come quite handy when I start to quilt, and I can’t wait to get started! But again, there is a some mental yoga going on: Quilting requires a lot of math, which is not my favorite thing! There i also a lot of preparation and planning, which I am down with, but surprised by. I’ll get better as I go, and hopefully things will go faster. I’m very pleased with my progress so far, though!

What are your challenges for 2015? What skills would you like to take up? I hope we can accomplish some things together, dear reader!

On this Friday, I wish you a warm fire and a bunch of blankets! I wish you hot chocolate, but only after a sumptuous meal that starts with warm both and goes on from there, warming and filling with every bite. Let it end with a yummy warm dessert like lava cake or bananas foster (a personal favorite). I wish you a very good book and the quiet time to read it, enjoying it to the utmost and not wanting it to end. I wish you big wide warms to draw you close for a long and happy hug. I wish you a second glance from a stranger across a crowded room, a whispered “I love you” over coffee in the morning, or a quiet moment sitting next to the love of your life, saying no words at all. I wish you a hot passionate moment of taking on a challenge, the satisfied laughter that comes with defeating it, or the blue moment of failure and wise contemplation of trying again. And the radiating joy that comes from knowing that you are loved and worthy of that love. Always.

Until Monday, take care.

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7 thoughts on “[Quiet Thoughts] Mental Yoga for the New Year

  1. I write poetry myself, and I still don’t find poems all that easy just to read. I’ll skim through a number and then only when I’ve found one that I like will I read it through enough times to try and understand it. But I think poetry is often less what the poet was trying to say and more what you can say with their words – people bring their own feelings and understandings to the poem. So the same phrase can mean different things to different people.

    Poets I like include Dylan Thomas, Christina Rossetti and TS Eliot (not that I understand anything HE’s saying). But I also enjoy watching poetry being performed on YouTube and stuff – Button Poetry, the channel is called, and it shows the medium in a different light.

    I think what I was trying to say when I started this comment was that poetry can be hard to understand but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s often more about the reader than the writer. One of my favourite poems is The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. It’s fairly simple linguistically but the story it tells is full of ambiguity and questions and I love it. 🙂

    • I’m going to look for Button Poetry and give it a listen/look! And I’ve never heard of Dylan Thomas or Christina Rossetti (I don’t think… maybe? See how uninitiated I am??) so I am going to look for them!

      Do you find writing poetry more interesting than reading it? Did you take a class/get trained on that or did you just start writing a particular way? I’m very curious about this entire world. It intimidates and intrigues at the same time. I’ve never felt so undereducated about something, but I’m enjoying giving it a go!

      • Well, I learned about poetry in school English lessons, but that doesn’t really teach you a lot. It’s something I’ve experimented with a lot over the past few years. I wrote a lot of very bad poetry, and some angsty teenage poetry, and some bizarre poetry, and gradually began settling into something that was very much my own style. But I’m still learning and trying things out. And mostly I would say I enjoy writing it more than reading it, but actually my reasons for writing it are usually for emotional reasons whereas reading is a different approach, so I suppose I’m in a different mindset.

        Christina Rossetti wrote a poem called the Goblin Market. My favourite Dylan Thomas is one that I studied in school called “Especially When The October Wind”. It’s quite tricky to understand because he uses a lot of imagery and it takes a lot of rereading but I think it’s worth it. I love some of the phrases he uses.

  2. I gotcher back with the poetry dude. Hit me up if need be. And remember, they are like art or music, not every one will speak to you, not every one will be likeable. Classic labelling does not always mean they are good. Some poems just suck.

      • Emily Dickinson. But dont do her entire works because it would make you hate her. Grab a small volume of her greatest hits, and sit back on a re-lax. She’s a poet to chill with and ponder over, not a to-do list item. One must not speed through her lines lest one misses her wit. Her poems are easy reading, no analysing required; however, they are not monolevel or trite. What I like, is that you can enjoy them without ever knowing shit about poetry; but if youre into poetry and analysing, her work is challenging and fulfilling as a study.

        Dont try tonunderstand anything. Just enjoy it as you would a new novel or short story.

        If you hit a snag, email me. I’ll lay down an analysis for you. In the meantime, I’ll try to think of some other poets to cut your teeth on. Oh, if you want some contemporary work that requires no analysing at all, pick up this book:
        http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0805032576/ref=redir_mdp_mobile/187-4937434-9915105.

        Powerful stuff.

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